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  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenors: Isabel Davis, Carolyn Burdett
  • Assessment: a 1500-word essay (10%), a 2500-word essay (45%) and two essays in a three-hour written examination (45%)

Module description

How has the genre of romance changed over time, and how has it stayed the same? What forms did magic, chivalry and adventure take in medieval English romance, and how or why were they contested? What were the connections between Romance and religion, politics, or beliefs about gender, race or social status? Who read romances, for what reasons, and in what settings? What is the relationship between romance and literary form?

These are just some of the questions we will consider. This course will offer you the chance to read a wide range of romances while thinking about the characteristics and uses of the genre. We will explore texts by a variety of authors, including Marie de France, Chaucer, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Henry Rider Haggard, Virginia Woolf and Helen Fielding. At the same time, this course will consider the transformations in the genre over time, its interconnectedness with its social contexts and its relationship to ‘the literary’. We will discover how many modern assumptions about Romance don’t adequately account for the importance, diversity and influence of the genre within English literature.


  • Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818)
  • Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights (1847)
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer, especially the Man of Law’s Tale and the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale
  • Marie de France, The Lais of Marie De France
  • Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996)
  • Rider Haggard, She (1886)
  • William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale
  • Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

Learning objectives

By the end of this module you will:

  • be familiar with the concept of romance as a genre within literature and drama
  • have explored the themes of medieval romance within its cultural context
  • have considered the question of readership in relation to romance as a genre
  • have considered changes and continuities in romance across periods, geographies and contexts studied
  • have investigated the genre as a concept.